Pickleball Rules: General Rules of the Game of Pickleball

Some of you may or may not be familiar with the paddle sport called “pickleball.” It started way back in 1965, but it is booming now during the pandemic.

There are different theories on how the sport got its name. Some said it is from the phrase “pickle boat,” a mix of other teams in rowing. 

In this case, pickleball is also a mix of different sports like table tennis, tennis, and badminton. Some of their rules make up the pickleball sports which you’ll encounter in this post. 

Although they adopted some rules from those three, pickleball also has its unique set of rules like non-volley zone, double bounce, and underhand service. 

The other theory where pickleball got its name is from the founders’ family dog. The dog’s name is Pickles, who chased after the ball while playing this sport. 

While these two origins sound like they came from both ends of the spectrum, the founder of pickleball confirmed them to be true. 

pickleball rules

Point System

The winner who gets 11 points wins the game; however, you need to lead by two points. If the players have a tie score, the game continues until they have a two-point difference. 

You only get to score during service, so make sure your service gets in. 

If you’re playing for a tournament scale, the winning score maybe 15 or 21 points.

Related Reading: Rules for singles pickleball – Check Them out Here

Court Rules

Court rules - pickleball rules

You can play pickleball on a badminton-sized tennis court. Now it may sound not very clear but hear me out.

Imagine a tennis court but on a smaller scale: 20 feet in width and 44 feet in length. Hence, most of the court rules in tennis apply to pickleball. 

For example, the ball is “in” if it lands directly on the outside lines. Therefore, you can continue playing the game. 

However, pickleball has a unique non-volley zone located near the nets. The ball needs to bounce before you can hit it in that area. 

Also, the ball used in service must pass the non-volley zone and boundary lines before landing on the correct serving court. The landing is also successful if it lands on the serving court sidelines and baseline. 

Any other area where the ball lands aside from the mentioned ones is a fault. 

Additionally, the net in pickleball is two inches shorter compared to a tennis net. The actual pickleball net is 36 inches on both ends, while the middle part is 34 inches. 

So if you plan to play on a tennis court, you’ll have to pull down the net 2 inches lower to follow pickleball standards. 

While we’re on the topic of court rules, I should also include a brief rule about the non-volley zone. This part is in the next segment, but you should know that you have to avoid it as a part of the court. 

Avoid going in the kitchen unless a ball bounces in this area. Once you finish hitting a ball in this zone, move out quickly. 

Non-Volley Zone (NVZ) Rules 

The non-volley zone, also called NVZ or the “kitchen,” is a part of the court where volleying is off-limits. So if someone tells you to stay out of the kitchen, stay out of the NVZ.

You cannot volley in the kitchen so players can avoid doing smashes in this unfair position. But if a ball bounces within this area, you can go in the NVZ to hit it then get out immediately. 

When a player steps in the kitchen and all lines related to it during a volley, it will be a fault. Even if a player accidentally steps in the NVZ because of an unforeseen obstruction, it is still a fault. 

So even if the opponent hit the ball to return it to your side and you set foot on the NVZ, the call is a fault. Ensure that once you hit the ball, both of your feet should be out of the kitchen.

A player may enter the kitchen anytime as long as they are not volleying a ball. But even if you can do it, try your best not to do it so you can avoid losing a point. 

The best thing to do to take advantage of the NVZ is “dinking” because the longer the rally is, the higher chances your opponent commits a mistake. 

Serving Rules

The service in pickleball is underhand, and it comes with two rules. The player must hit the ball below the waist and the wrist. 

You need to stand outside the baseline, between the sideline and centerline, to do a service, just like tennis. 

However, what sets it apart from tennis is that you must land your service in the diagonal box from where your position is. If it didn’t land there, the service is a fault, and the next server gets the turn.

If your service ball hit the net, but it still landed on the right side of the court, you receive another chance to do service again. 

And if the ball hits the net and lands on the NVZ and any lines associated with it, you get a fault call, and the next player serves. 

Additional Serving Rules

Before any service, an official or anyone available to do so should announce the score and server number. If not, then it becomes a fault, and the opponents can take the turn for serving. 

After calling the score and service number, the server has ten seconds to do it. If ten seconds passed and the server failed to perform, it is a fault. 

Remember, when the team’s score is an even number, the server needs to be on the right side whenever they have to serve or receive. 

If they serve or receive from the wrong side, the service is automatically a fault. When the first server receives the fault call, the server needs to stop the first service while server two takes the turn.

If server two commits a fault, it becomes a side-out, so the opponent gets the chance to serve. 

A point will not retain from a service error due to the incorrect position or server unless the play went on and gained another point. Or, in other cases, when the opponent served.  

Double Bounce Rule

The double bounce rule means that they need to let it bounce once before returning it when it receives a service. 

The same goes for the serving side as they need to let the ball bounce once before returning it; hence, the double bounce rule.

After the teams let the ball bounce once in each other’s courts, they can volley and hit the ball even if it didn’t bounce. They can also play it after the ball bounced. 

The double bounce rule aims to create a more extended rally and avoid the unfair advantages during services and volleying. 

Scoring & Serving

Pickleball usually holds their game as doubles, so the scoring and serving rules apply to images. 

The two players of each serving team can do the service and score until they get a fault except for the first service of each new game.

During the start of a new game, only one of the serving team members can serve. They can perform service until they get a fault, then the other team takes the turn of serving. 

Whenever there’s a side-out, the first serve will come from the right side of the court. That first server will be the server one. 

Before, the scores appeared as 0-0-start, but on the newly updated rules, the first score will be 0-0-2. 

Whenever a player scores a point, the server switches sides, and the next player will serve from the left-hand court. 

For the following scored points, the server should switch from the right-hand and left-hand sides of the court. It will only stop until the first server commits a fault. 

After the server loses the service streak, their partner can now serve from wherever they are during service. 

Now the server two can continue doing service until a fault occurs and loses its turn. A side-out will happen, and the service ball goes to the opponent’s team. 

When the service turn goes to the other team, their first server also serves from the right-hand side of the court and follows the same rules mentioned. After two faults, service is back to the opposing team. 

Meanwhile, for a singles game in pickleball, the player serves from the right-hand court whenever their score is even. If their score is odd, then they serve on the left-hand court. 

Other rules regarding service and the scoring in doubles apply the same in a singles game. 

To decide who will serve first, the players can use a fair method to do it. For some places, they hold a pickleball game; they have their system for deciding the turns. 

For example, the flip coin method is the usual decision-maker for things like this. You can also do a rally, and whoever wins decides who’s going to be first. 

Read this article for more details on Pickleball Scoring.

Line Calls

Line calls

When a service ball lands on the kitchen and its associated lines, then it is a fault. Meanwhile, when a ball lands on any line except the NVZ during a service, it is an “in.”

If there is no sure call whether the ball is in or not, you’ll have to consider it as “in” according to pickleball rules. 

However, if the teams disagree on the call, you can ask the opposite team their judgment of what happened. If the other team decides the ball is in or not, then it is the final call. 

But if you have a referee during the game, you can ask for his call and refer to it as the final line call for the case. 


There are quite a lot of things to note about the faults in pickleball. The rule considers any action that causes any delay or stops in the game as a fault. 

As I mentioned, a ball volleyed from the NVZ is a fault, so that’s the first one. 

Another fault may occur when a server does not land within the receiving court’s side. Or when the service ball hits the net or during any returns.  

Volleying the ball without making the double bounce rule may also lead to a fault. But it does not mean that you can let the ball bounce twice before the receiver hits it because it’s a fault. 

It is also a fault when a player hits the ball from out of the lines. Or if a player’s clothes or paddle touch the net and net post when in play. 

Lastly, any violation of the rules of the service will count as a fault. 

When you get a call for fault as a receiver, then the server receives the points. When a server receives a fault, they lose the chance for service, or the receiving team gets the opportunity to serve. 

Portable Pickleball Net Rules

When you hit the ball, it touches the net and drops on the horizontal bar, you can continue playing, and the opponents need to return it. 

Applying the same case, but the ball gets jabbed between the net and horizontal bar, you get a let to play the ball again. You get another chance to replay the score. 

Another rule applying the same scenario, but the ball drops and hits the center of the net instead of the horizontal bar, you get another let. 

Finally, if you hit the ball and hit the horizontal bar from your side, consider it a fault, and the rally ends. 

Interesting Pickleball Rules

You don’t need to get the ball over the net to win from a rally in pickleball. During a “dinking,” the player can return the ball to the other side without hitting it to go over the net. 

It is the around-the-post shot which means the ball goes around the post to reach the other side. 

You can also do the Erne shot wherein you hit the ball in the kitchen while in the air. In that way, you’re not standing on the kitchen floor when hitting.